Matthew Wright, Representative for Great Britain at the European Championships and winner of 2011 Express Eventing Qualifiers at Bolesworth Classic and The Lincolnshire Show.

This year the compact thrill a minute version of eventing is being rolled out nationally. The Express Eventing Series 2011 has had successful start seeing dressage, cross country and show jumping being completed in one arena. With two qualifying events remaining this season and the final spectacle at HOYS in October, we hear first hand how the series is going.

Our reporter Louise Elliott took ten minutes with qualifier Matthew Wright to discuss his successes so far in the 2011 series, his reason for entering and his thoughts on the new format.

LOUISE ELLIOTT: This is your first year competing in the Express Eventing Series, what was it that attracted you to the exciting and compact version of the sport?

Matthew Wright: A number of things really, I like the idea of giving Eventing a modern twist and bringing Eventing to a wider audience plus the prize fund is second to none. The reward for winning is a big bonus and certainly something to get competitive about; there aren’t many events with a £100,000 total prize pot and £3,000 for each win!

LE: The Express Eventing format includes Dressage, Cross Country and Show Jumping as you are used to, but is arena based and more compact, how have you found adjusting to the format?
MW: I think that the concept has been clearly thought out and the Express Eventing team really involve the competitors and take on board rider feedback.

Compared with Eventing in the traditional form, I have really enjoyed the more compact, one day format. The hardest part that I’ve found to adjust to although now, good fun, has been the Freestyle Dressage to Music. It has been completely different for me, firstly having to put together my own test and then fit it to music! The cross country phase, being arena based means that both horse and rider have to focus and be sharp as the jumping efforts come up quickly. The show jumping format is similar to traditional Eventing, although I like the concept of the “eraser” fence which deducts four penalty points from your score – I’ve had to jump that in both the qualifiers so far to secure the top spot! I’m also lucky that I have a fantastic horse that jumps boldly in cross country, yet is careful in the show jumping and has plenty of scope to clear the final “eraser” fence when I need it!

LE: I’m surprised that the Freestyle Dressage to Music phase has been a challenging part as you’ve been quite a crowd pleaser with your choice of dressage music so far with both Lady Gaga and Kings of Leon, are these on your playlist and what can we hope to see at the final?
MW: [Laughs] I’ve really enjoyed doing the Dressage to Music but it has required a lot of practice and hard work. As for choice of music, I can’t quite take all the credit for that and am grateful for Ian Woodhead’s input – it did make me smile when I saw the video on YouTube and I was trotting down the centre line to Sex on Fire by Kings of Leon! I’m very much looking forwards to the Horse of the Year Show final at the NEC in October and am working on a new piece of music, it’s top secret but will be one to listen out for!

LE: Both competitions (Bolesworth Qualifier and Lincolnshire Show) have been very close and down to the last round in the Show Jumping if not the last fence, did you ever have any doubts the titles might not have been yours?
MW: With my first Express Eventing competition at Bolesworth, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and the stakes were high with both Oliver Townend and Mark Todd competing. On winning that, I went to Lincolnshire feeling confident as its my home turf, but tough competition from Fiona Hobby meant it came down to the last fence in the show jumping, I knew that I had to jump and clear the “eraser” fence to win the £3,000.

LE: Following your win at the Bolesworth Qualifer (9th June) and The Lincolnshire Show (22nd June), what’s been your most memorable moment?
Winning the Bolesworth Qualifier was a great achievement, but in the final phase of the Lincolnshire Show I knew that I had to not only show jump clear but jump the eraser fence. It was also really good to win in front of my home crowd as I compete at Lincolnshire every spring and am based locally.

LE: With two wins under your belt for the series, a qualifying ticket to the final at HOYS and two qualifiers remaining, what are your chances of taking home all four qualifier wins?
There’s tough competition at the Game Fair with the likes of this years Badminton winner Mark Todd, I’ll also be up against previous Express Eventing winners and competitors including Oliver Townend and 2010 series winner Flora Harris so I think it will be tough, but now I’ve won two I would love to win all four!


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